INDIANAPOLIS—As the state nears the peaks of the COVID-19 outbreak, health officials are beginning to expand testing beyond the health care workers who are showing signs of the disease.
At Gov. Eric Holcomb’s virtual press briefing Tuesday, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said drive-through testing is expanding to include the families of health care workers, if the family member is showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
“We know that if someone in your household is sick, and you’re a nurse or physician, you really should probably stay home because of the risk of you showing up with a sickness,” she said.
Box said the expansion of testing to these individuals is to ensure health care workers can safely return to work, if the tests results are negative.
They are also expanding testing at the same sites of higher-risk individuals showing symptoms, including those with a greater risk because of their age, weight or other underlying health conditions.
Also in an attempt to make testing more accessible, Box announced Monday the addition of new drive through testing sites in Gary, Evansville, and Sellersburg and Fort Wayne. She said Tuesday that 465 people were tested at the sites in the first day they were open.
The state reported 313 new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to more than 8,500. The health department also reported 37 additional deaths Tuesday, including that of a 70-year-old man at Westfield Correctional Facility. Department of Correction officials reported that the man had showed no sign of COVID-19 until he reported experiencing chest pains and difficulty breathing earlier Monday. He was taken to a local hospital where he died.
The health department has recorded a total number of 387 deaths, one of which occurred on March 15, one day earlier than the first reported death from the virus. Box has said that there have been delays in getting test results reported to the health department.
In addition to the health threat, COVID-19 has disrupted the economy because the many businesses shuttered by the spread of the virus as Indiana remains under a statewide lockdown.
Holcomb invited U.S. Sen. Todd Young to join the daily briefing to discuss the federal legislation, such as the CARES Act, which aims to provide direct aid to families, businesses, hospital and other government entities hurt by the pandemic.
Young said the first round of recovery checks will be distributed this week for those who have direct deposit information filed with the IRS.
Young also said the Small Business Administration reported Paycheck Protection Program loans have been approved in Indiana totaling just under $6 billion. Paycheck Protection Program loans are designed to provide an incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.
“We also recognize that for so many businesses it’s incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to do business when one is social distancing, so we wanted those businesses to be around at the back end of this and we also want to make our employers whole,” he said.
Young also said farmers have been hit hard by the pandemic, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be issuing guidance soon for Hoosier farmers to apply for financial support.